Adventure, by its very nature, implies an element of risk. Even the smallest or mildest adventures are inherently risky. Certainly riskier than sitting on the couch at home. (Unless you take into account dying of boredom!) And no one understands this better than skydiver, BASE jumper and ioCrew member Bee Goncalves who will look back at 2015 as one of her most challenging years ever after being rocked by several jumping tragedies in a matter of weeks.
An average day for Bee is probably anything but average for the rest of us. You’ll usually find her jumping out of perfectly good airplanes, or off bridges or cliffs, in pursuit of the thrill of flight as a pro skydiver and BASE jumper.
But in May this year when rock climbing visionary Dean Potter and his fellow climber Graham Hunt died in a failed wing suit jump at Yosemite, it had a profound impact on Bee. “The whole thing was so heart wrenching and surreal. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that the Wizard and Grahambo were gone.” Graham and Bee had a special bond, they met at a nearby skydiving facility in Southern California in early 2012 and quickly became “partners in life and adventure”. Together they made trips to Europe and traveled the US in pursuit of their passion and love of body flight. Only months after the loss of Graham and Dean, Bee’s best friend and BASE jumping mentor Fernando Goncalves was killed in a wingsuiting accident in Rio de Janeiro.
“They were in my everyday life, best friends and believers. What’s happened has changed my views, and my approach is a bit more thought out” Bee confesses, commenting on the affect these events have had on her personal approach to adventure. Just don’t expect her to stop jumping any time soon. “My main passion in life is to fly and be free and to be in that environment. It lives and breathes inside of me and if I don’t fulfill it or do it, I’m not really being true to myself” she says.
While she’s still skydiving, Bee’s opted for a slight change of pace and is now working at iFly, an indoor skydiving wind tunnel that has recently opened in Portland, Oregon.
“It’s definitely a career change. With everything that’s happened this past year I was a little more stoked to bring things into a safer environment for a while. But safety doesn’t always make it as much fun.”
Bee says the new environment wasn’t without its own challenges though. “In the tunnel you have to hone your skills quite a bit. When you’re up in the sky you’ve got the whole sky to fly around in. Everything you do in a tunnel is magnified – you can’t be sliding all over the place. You literally have 14 feet otherwise you’re smacking into a tunnel wall.”
Bee says the slight change of pace and environment gave her the perfect opportunity to rebuild.
“I’m still trying to put the pieces back into place so I have a strong foundation. I’m always trying to learn and be smart with my choices. I’m really trying to put things in the right place so I feel secure when I do make big decision. Every time you jump off a cliff it’s a huge decision. That’s why I enjoy BASE jumping, because it’s very internal and intuitive. To me, if there’s something off and I’m just not feeling it, I let my ego go and walk away. But there were times I wasn’t sure I could differentiate between emotion and that instinctual feeling that this isn’t a jump I should be making.”
For all the rebuilding, Bee hasn’t stopped jumping altogether. “Right now I’m in California chasing the sun and reintroducing myself to the world of BASE jumping. I took a good bit of time to stop and reflect, but I’ve been slowly getting back in the saddle and taking it one step at a time, slowly doing the whole progression over again.”
Ever the optimist, it’s an approach Bee says has delivered some unexpected upside as well. “I’m able to see things through different eyes and feel the experiences, emotions and excitement from back when I first got into it, so that’s a really cool thing.”
Whether it’s in the wind tunnel or jumping, Bee says she’s still wearing the exact same thing – her ioMerino. The Mongrel has become a firm favourite in her wardrobe, no doubt reflecting her own personal style as well as delivering high performance Merino layering. But top of the list is the ever present Highpoint NeckTube.
“I always wear my ioNeckTube as a hair wrap. But I’ve been getting a lot of wind burn on my neck so lately I’ve been using two of them – one for my hair, and one around my neck for protection.”
As for the future, Bee remains philosophical about the risk involved in her chosen path and the loss she’s experienced.
“Death is a real thing and it’s inevitable. It doesn’t always have to be this somber, sad thing though. It can be a celebration of what time you’ve actually been able to have here. It’s not always about what you do, but how you do it.”